koi4u-2011 facebook  koi4u-2011 hoogland
You are here: HomeGeneral ArticlesChris on KoiIs There a Lighter Side to Koi Keeping?

Chris on Koi

Is There a Lighter Side to Koi Keeping?


There seems to be only one side to koi keeping - a serious side. The days of fun and humour in the hobby seem to have escaped us. Therefore, I would also like to add to the situation - the HEAVY side of koi keeping or HSOKK for short. We should never take our hobby too lightly. There is a very serious side to koi keeping - long unpronounceable Japanese names, blood lines, future potential and the often used "oh no, no what have you done" look when you describe your filter system to some one who has other ideas. Slapping of the forehead or placing the hands over the mouth or raising the eyebrows whilst whistling between the teeth often accompanies the “ONNWHYD”  - oh,no,no what have you done - look. False teeth can be detected by a gentle rattling that accompanies the whistle. Cavities in the teeth create a melodious soft echo reminiscent of a dolphin’s mating call.
I sometimes think we are straying far from the concepts of koi keeping being a hobby, being fun, being enjoyable. I do hope the following thoughts will bring a smile to your face and warm your heart with the human side of koi keeping. It will throw a little light on the other side of koi keeping. Contrasting the world of long Japanese names, bloodlines, tategoi, jumbo koi, biological filter parameters, and scientific reasons for this and that.

In koi keeping we know more and more about less and less and I believe we are approaching the ultimate goal - to know everything about nothing!

It is essential that if you want to understand koi you have to understand the various terms that are used in the koi world. Just as lawyers and doctors have words and phrases we know are important and only they can understand, so do koi experts. If you do not use the "proper" words you WILL BE frowned upon. You will be dammed as the worst thing in koi keeping - a beginner!

If you are a beginner don't despair, we were all beginners at one time or the other. Actually, most koi keepers are forced into the situation of becoming beginners several times in the course of their koi careers, for one reason or another ….. Well yes, I did have a LITTLE misfortune the other day.

Many beginners have excellent ideas that are brilliant in their simplicity although this is rarely recognised by others. A few years ago a koi keeper, now a certified judge, designed and built his own pond and filter before he even knew of the existence of the koi society or other koi keepers. As a "beginner" his pond and filter were and are a brilliant success. This gentleman is an "old man" of koi keeping now and there has never been a need to change his original concepts. His pond and filter must still be classified as brilliant because they are simple, easy to clean and work.

All languages have short cuts. Bookshelves are full of little pocket books of quick phrases that can get you around a foreign country and often into trouble, if you mispronounce something. In the world of koi a short cut method is to familiarise oneself with the basic terminology used by those esteemed gentlemen in the secret inner circles of knowledge of the koi world. Once you have familiarised yourself, simply place your own interpretation on the words. A list for your use and enjoyment is included later in this serious article.

Standing over a pond in a "knowledgeable" stance is always a good beginning when new to the hobby. Knowledgeable people do not get hysterical every time they see THE koi they want. Do not freeze over a pond when you suddenly discover a lovely koi. This is a give away of a beginner. Eyes glazed over, lips tremble, a hand shoots into the pocket to recount the number of dollars or pounds stolen (sorry, borrowed) from the household budget that are available. Please remember to swallow and close the mouth before freezing stiff with excitement, there is enough liquid in the pond already, thank you.

"Knowledgeable" koi keepers stand quietly at the edge of the pond pretending to be looking at something on one of the koi that is obviously not there. In other words you are looking for something that cannot be seen by yourself or any one else for that matter. Much like a gypsy looking into a clear glass ball and actually seeing something. In the koi world this is called future potential. And only tategoi have fucture potential, or so the experts tell us. This wonderous ability to look at a colourless koi and see a wonderful pattern that will emerge on the 7th of August in the year 2010 leaves us breathless with admiration.

The beginners trick is to be discreet but still attract attention. A little black book to make notes as you move from pond to pond brings instant elevation in status and immediate attention. NEVER have little coloured, cut out pictures of your favourite koi stuck to the cover. This screams - beginner. If you have to label the black book, be adventurous with "slush fund" or "gambling winnings" or "diamond mine dividends". The occasional "mmmm, or yes, yes, good, good" whilst wiggling your fingers in the water or pointing to a particular koi brings glances of admiration.

To further impress anyone in the immediate area, intersperse your conversation with any one of the following - tategoi, jumbo, blood line, future potential, hi, sumi, matagomori, suzkui or even kwasaki. To really impress, just mention of kiwa, shashi and ojema. These words bring gasps of approval. Use the words appreciation (the Japanese way naturally) or bio filtration (bio conversion is better than biological filtration because it shows that you know what you are talking about). Don't forget to banish around a few Japanese sounding names that could be easily mistaken for important breeders you know personally or whom you have visited or whom you correspond with regularly, even though they do not speak a word of English.

Another method in your armoury to appear knowledgeable is to taste or smell the water in the pond. Just as you can establish the condition of a second hand motor vehicle by kicking the tyres, so you can establish the condition of pond water by tasting it. Tasting demonstrates that you have the ability to instantly analyse the pond water for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, dissolved oxygen content, pH, dissolved solids, trace elements etc. without any scientific equipment whatsoever - a sure way to demonstrate that you are experienced. Always taste or smell the water when someone is watching. You will immediately be elevated out of the ranks of the "beginner".

Unfortunately, this method of impressing people has inherent dangers. Should you find that whilst you are tasting the water that it is really foul or tastes like the bottom of an old, damp fish meal sack you have a problem, a BIG problem. People ARE watching you. You either have to swallow the mouthful of water and your pride or you have to expunge it from your cheeks as quickly as possible to avoid further complications. Someone who has decided to swallow fishy water is easy to identify - change of colour, change of facial expression and a direct manoeuvre towards the exit without due respect for anything that may hinder their progress. Control of the diaphragm at this stage, is of the up most importance.

Quickly turning away from the people you are attempting to impress and spitting out the fishy water could result in the dear, sweet old granny standing next to you admiring your knowledge, being unceremoniously spat upon. Don't panic; remember a retreat is merely an advance in another direction. Excuse yourself and further impress your audience with your knowledge by reassuring the recently christened person that the bacteria needed to oxidise ammonia in water are found everywhere in nature. Exit promptly as dear, sweet old grannies can become extremely violent when provoked.

If you are capable of retaining the mouthful of foul water in your cheeks after discovering the foul, fishy taste you can move smartly to the exit turn the corner and expunge the water (and the contents of your stomach). Be careful, in your haste, not to spit the water out into the electrical control box around the corner and blow the whole area sky high.

Smelling the water has inherent dangers as well. Just as you lower your head to water level to smell deeply, as an experienced koi keeper would, a wave in the tank could suddenly raise the water level around your nose and the fishy water will end up in your sinuses. Friends and loved ones will avoid speaking to you or making intimate contact for a long, long time afterwards.

Enough of this irrelevant, frivolous humour let us be serious for a moment. To assist the average person to impress others and help them through the labyrinth of terms relating to koi - THE Hitch-Hikers Guide to the World of Koi follows. (With no apologies to the "boffins" in the Society.) – Also some definitions that will assist you in classifying not the koi but the koi keepers!

My thanks to KOIUSA from a few years back for the original concept and inspiration for these definitions:

AI-GOROMO: Agreeing with an Indian chief.
AI AI-GOROMO: Mexican hat dance.
AKA: A machine gun used in the early part of the Second World War but was withdrawn from production because it could only fire two bullets at a time - a-ka, a-ka.
ASAGI: Tennis player ranked somewhere in the top 300.
BEKKO: One of the Marx brothers.
KI BEKKO: Same Marx brother but with jaundice.
BOZU: (pronounced bozo) Description of idiot who swerves in front of you on highway at 140 km. Usually accompanied by hand gestures involving the use of only two fingers whilst shouting "bozo" over and above the blasting hi-fi system.
GIN RIN: Type of martini.
GOSHIKI: An expression used when identifying a sticky substance on the face of a child with a cold..
HANATSUKI: New model motorbike recently released to compete with Honda etc.
HARIWAKE: The start of Harry's day.
HI: Greeting or recognising.
HI UTSURI: Recognising Mr. Utsuri.
HI OGON: Same recognition different Mr.
HOOKAZUKI: Lady of ill repute from the east.
JUMBO KOI: For a beginner - anything that swims that is larger than 20cm. For someone who has been to a koi show - anything that swims and is above 70cm. For someone who has been to Japan - anything above 2 meters.
KABUTO:  Small town in Swaziland. (its true!)
KAGE: Avoiding the situation.
KINDAI: Pronounced kin - die. Thoughts that cross your mind when your family disapproves of your hobby of collecting koi.
KIWA: Clear-cut definition between two different colours as in the New Zealand All Blacks rugby jerseys. Usage - those bloody kiwa's beat us in the rugby tests again.
KOHAKU: Sneezing in Japanese (think about it).
KUCHIBENE: Pronounced as two syllables kuchi - bene. Used to encourage your 40 kg bull terrier "bene" into action to maul an irritating poodle that has been barking for hours in the middle of the night.
MA-GOI: Mother fish.
MATSUBA: A place name in Zululand.
MENWARE: Sign at department store indicating where to purchase clothes for your husband.
MOTOGURO: Italian motorbike developed to compete with the newly released HANATSUKI.
SANKE: A decaffeinated koi. Originally used as expression of displeasure.
SHIMMI: Occasionally used to describe black dots appearing in unwanted places on your fish. However, more commonly used by koi keepers themselves when they notice the black dots first appearing. "Oh shimmi there's a black dot!" Beginning to replace the original "Oh Sanke! There is a black spot on my Kohaku"
SHIRO: Although shiro is translated as plain white it must be the ultimate expression of the way a tategoi can develop. "shiro, Shiro, SHIRO - it lost all it's bloody colour".
SHOWA: Italian verb e.g. "Showa me your besta fisha."
SHUSUI: Double meaning here - Discouraging a pet dog named Sue from christening the leg of a visitor and -
SHUSUI: Potent Japanese beverage.
TATEGOI: Several interpretations depending on whom you talk to. For the true meaning of tategoi refer to the fairy tale of the king's new clothes - "but you ARE wearing clothes!" or “This Tategoi WILL be good”.
WAGOI: Used in response to being called a BOZO for bad driving by another motorist - You bloody WAGOI can't you see I'm talking on my cellular phone!
YAMABUKI: Really serious motorbike.
YOROI: Israeli koi breeder.
SANDAN: Alcoholic beverage consumed by ex Rhodesians after the sun goes down.
And finally a list of diseases of koi keepers compiled by Charmaine Hopkins -
KOIMALITIS: This occurs in the early stages of koi keeping. His eyes are glazed and he has a permanent smile. He walks outside and stares (for hours on end) at all the available space in the garden.
At this stage you are wondering if it is another woman, but you are oh so relieved to discover that all the excitement is all about fish.
Don't be so naïve. A mistress could be a lot less time consuming and probably a lot less expensive.
LANDNOMOWITIS: All of a sudden there is no more lawn. All the available space as previously mentioned is taken up by large holes in the ground, which is quickly filled with water and then THE FISH. (This is not a joke; there are certain members of the society who have no more lawn at all). BE WARENED!
DEAFNESS: I think this is selective hearing. When they are out at the fish pond, only bits of information that are important to them are perceived and heard.
WINOLITIS: This has nothing to do with heavy drinking. It merely refers to the way in which these koi keepers can wine on about their fish. (I do not wish to hurt anyone's feelings, but the truth must be told).
PONDITIS: This refers to the Green Pond Syndrome. This one still puzzles me! Everyone with a green pond will tell you they have too many fish. No one ever admits to having an inadequate filtration system or not having cleaned ot flushed their ponds lately.
AQUALITIS: Sooner or later the urge to go swimming with ones koi over comes them. At this stage the koi keeper is very much aware he is a suffer of Koimalitis. He also has a list longer that a households monthly shopping list, of excuses as to why he needs to inspect his fish at close range. I won't go into detail here, as it is rather pathetic watching the one you love behave this way. Just pretend you don't know that he has advanced symptoms of all the above-mentioned diseases.
EYEMALITIS: Starring for hours on end into the fish pond. Eventually he will try and infect you by saying, "look at this one, and that one is my favourite." etc. At this stage many wives feel that if you can't beat them join them!
ATHLETES FOOT (VROT VOET – Afrikaans for rotten feet): It is unavoidable. Anyone who insists on squelching around in the fish pond for hours on end in slip slops or takkies deserves this one. It’s the poor wife I'm concerned about at this stage.
TAIl ROT: Don't panic, it is not a bad as it sounds. This merely refers to the wonderful stories, which as they are passed from one Koi Crazy to another, become like old wine (need I say more).
D.T.S - WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS: Your annual family holiday is in jeopardy. Before you leave it is bad enough having to contend with constant the moaning about "who will look after MY fish" etc. Once you're away from home you have to cope with the above mentioned syndrome. Symptoms are once again staring into space, shaking, sweating and constant mumbling about his fish. Try not to take notice. You need to be very strong at this stage, because if he has his way, he will cancel the rest of the holiday and head home. If you do win the battle and stay on holiday, the next problem you are confronted with is ....
DEEPPRESSION: (Not diving in the deep end of the pool to commit suicide, although at this stage many wives feel that they have had enough and could easily push their spouses into the nearest stretch of water.) This problem is recognised by a rather grouchy face, tearful eyes, moping around etc. The only way to overcome this problem is to produce a photograph of his prize koi. The following reactions to the Koi Crazy, I do not wish to go into, since it is rather pathetic to see a grown man behave this way. The least said the better. You should however, be able to enjoy the rest of your holiday without too much fuss. BE WARNED! Your holidays away from home could be history.
LOSS OF SENSE OF HUMOUR: This is a touchy subject. I do suppose that at this stage half the Koi Society will never talk to me again. What the hell, some one has to be honest. I know of an incident where a Koi Crazy (who has a very beautiful wife, who pretends to be not so bright), praised her for the superb dish of fish they had just eaten for supper. "What fish was it dear"? the poor unsuspecting fool asks. "You know darling" she says in her most innocent voice, "I am always trying to save on groceries, so I decided not to waste petrol going to the shop to buy supper, so I decided to just catch a fish from the pond. We have so many fish in our pond".
ASTHMA ATTACK: ..... At this stage she notices that his face is turning red and that the blood vessels in his neck are beginning to dilate. "But don't worry darling", she says in her very best dumb blond voice, "I did not take one of your nice new fish, I only took the biggest, oldest one!”
NAUSEA: (Vrot Voet + Asthma Attack = Nausea).
FAINTING: (See sense of humour).
SWEARING: The most inventive colourful language can be heard when one's spouse is trying to catch that !#**&%$+#! fish, which has slipped behind the !#@&^$% rock for the!X!X$X!X 999th time. Have you ever thought that you can see a fish smiling at your Koi Crazy?
N.B. Keep the children away! This language easily infects the children and once they have caught the bug, it never seems to leave the system.
The next few problems seem to involve the wife and are all interrelated.
RAISED TEMPERATURE: The wife suffers the most from this one. Especially when HE has just blown the budget on fish.
NOLIETIS: You can be sure that if he says he paid R250.00 for a fish times it by four and you could be close to the truth e.g. R250.00 x 4 = R1000.00.
As the years go by, he changes his strategy especially when he realises that you are becoming more koi educated. At this stage a change in formulation is necessary.
RASH: (No, not red spots). These refer to quick decisions made when buying more fish.
STUTTERING: Koi Crazy trying to explain to his wife where the shrimps, prawns and mince have gone.
CONFUSION: I don't think I need to elaborate. The whole family feels this way.
PONGOLINGERLITIS: SMELL in the home cause by fish food. This is terrible since it affects the whole family. Suddenly friends don't call any more. Your children don't bring the friends home anymore. I know of a lot of wives who have moved out because of this problem.

Hope you enjoyed the lighter side to koi keeping -


Chris Neaves


Last Updated on Thursday, 18 November 2010 22:00